Growing Consumerism in Healthcare

April 24, 2019  |  Julia Brady


Alexa, Get Me a Doctor

Consumerism in health care has grown rapidly in recent years, indicating how frequently people now shop for, and utilize, health care. With a proliferation of new options and entrants into the provider space, ranging from telemedicine to upstart urgent care providers, patient experience as a source of competitive advantage has grown increasingly important in the battle for differentiation among larger providers.

Five years ago, new competitive concerns were largely centered on retail clinic growth offerings provided by Walgreens and CVS, innovators that built clinic models around ease and access, looking to other industries to benchmark expectations of convenience. These brands were already recognized and trusted by patients for healthcare offerings in the pharmaceutical delivery space, so were able to successfully extend their services to include basic primary care. Today, brands that historically have had no healthcare equity, such as Amazon, Uber and Google, have invested in strategies to enter to this space and capitalize on the growing wants and needs of consumers.

In examining success strategies among well-established providers and upstarts, a few themes emerge, indicating competitive advantages that more traditional providers may tap into to drive utilization and, in some cases, loyalty.

Continue to Focus on Access and Ease

In reviewing many new entrants in the healthcare industry, it’s evident that Americans continue to look for care on their terms. Consumers’ growing expectations of access to on-demand care has been on the radar of providers for decades leading to the development of retail clinics across the United States. In the late 2000’s, while leading marketing efforts for Evanston, IL based NorthShore University HealthSystem, our team redesigned the NorthShore website to include search options featuring offices that offered extended and walk-in hours. NorthShore’s commitment to access continues to evolve, driven by a laser focus on the evolving needs of their patient population. However, looking to new category entrants for both inspiration, and possible partnerships may be the next great source of competitive advantage.

Take rideshare company Lyft. Their recent IPO filing outlines a commitment to increasing access to healthcare with direct to consumer offerings and strategic partnerships. The Lyft Business website touts the ubiquity of their cars with a bold proclamation to “Get patients everywhere their care takes them.” Partnerships with providers, insurers and medical transportation logistics companies indicate a growing interest in new models for care transport, particularly among aging Boomers. Parking continues to be one of the single greatest stressors for patients, so looking for ways to alleviate this concern with free valet or discounted ride-share partnerships are ways hospitals can remove barriers and drive utilization.

Another disruptor in the New York metro area provider space is fast growing CityMD. At the recent Healthcare Advisory Board Meeting in Chicago, many examples were shared about how consumers are increasingly bypassing PCPs. CityMD was founded on the premise of “making healthcare inclusive,” and they are winning over consumers, particularly the elusive population of Millennials, with their ability to offer access and ease of use without sacrificing quality and access to a continuum of care, something more difficult for retailers like Walgreens and CVS to accomplish. CityMD promotes their “board-certified physicians and short wait times” while selectively partnering with specialty and larger care providers, indicating an opportunity for health systems to create strategic partnerships for bridging the continuum of care, tapping into a provider relationship likely seen as more accessible to Millennials.

Embrace Patient-Centered Branding, Communication & Navigation

In our client engagements at BVK, we often start by reviewing every aspect of the patient journey to better understand their motivations, as well as potential barriers, in choosing the right care. Our consumer-centric approach to branding at BVK is rooted in the insight that values drive actions. We partner with clients to determine what is personally important to their target audience and can be a source of competitive advantage. A healthcare provider that can tie its brand to a core human value is positioned to deepen engagement and loyalty since emotions drive decisions.

This same insight can apply to a provider’s approach to naming conventions, communications and website design. The consumer healthcare journey typically starts online with patients navigating through pages of information while deciphering confusing language. Some providers have found ways to address this consumer pain point through more consumer-friendly nomenclature, navigation and branding.

Consumer centric nomenclature gained traction more than a decade ago with elective procedures, where patients were more in control and deeply invested in the selection of care providers. An early example of this is NYUs Weight Management Program. In naming their program, NYU Langone highlighted the surgery outcome and benefit instead of the medical name, bariatric surgery. They further meet the needs of prospective patients by creating a specialized team created to guide them through the complex process of weight loss surgery.

Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis takes patient centered navigation even further, with its “get care” drop down menu providing options like “Birth and Baby” and “Healthy Aging.”

Providers like OrthoNow and Smart Choice MRI use consumer-friendly names and easily navigable websites to attract and retain patients. Smart Choice MRI recognizes the frustrations often faced by patients in scheduling and paying for an MRI, with a homepage proclaiming, “Power to the patient” and the tagline “Better Experience. Better Price. Smarter Choice.”

Embracing consumerism in healthcare is one way to build loyalty and engagement among your patient population by anticipating and addressing their needs. Consumerism is likely to continue to grow in the healthcare industry, as indicated by Apple’s, Google’s and Amazon’s increasing investment in healthcare solutions. These organizations and others see a gap in the value chain, indicating that providers who entertain and embrace a shift in mindset can better attract and retain patients.


is a Senior Vice President at BVK

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